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Horace Campbell on Mandela’s Legacy, NATO’s Failure in Libya and Obama’s Trip to Africa

Web ExclusiveJune 28, 2013
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In this web-only interview, Syracuse University Professor Horace Campbell reflects on the importance of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle. He also talks about his new book, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya.

Watch Part 1

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. As President Obama was leaving Senegal on his second trip to the African continent since he became president, he praised Nelson Mandela.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mandela stepped forward after 27 years of captivity and not only helped usher in democracy and majority rule and “one person, one vote” in South Africa, but, as importantly, for him to say, “I embrace my former captors and my former oppressors and believe in one nation, and believe in judging people on the basis of their character and not their color,” you know, it gave me a sense of what is possible in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, talking about Nelson Mandela, who lies in critical condition in hospital in South Africa. We’re joined by Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University, has written extensively about Africa over the decades. His most recent <a href=”http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/26/obama-in-africa-2/>article is called “The Imperial Tour: Militarism and Plunder.”

Professor Campbell, can you talk about the significance of this President Mandela, what he meant for Africa, what he means for the world, and for this trip for President Obama?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, first, what he meant for Africa. Mandela emerged out of a movement for liberation of the peoples of Africa. He emerged as one of the forces that matured in the context of the most oppressive system that was developed by human beings, called “apartheid,” where African human beings were devalued, they were oppressed, they were segregated, and they were exploited to make money for the Western capitalist system. There was an organization formed in South Africa called the African National Congress. It was formed in 1912, 101 years ago. As a young person, Nelson Mandela, who was trained to betray his people—he was trained as a lawyer—he joined the African National Congress in 1944. He was one of the leaders of the Youth League of the African National Congress. And the development of Mandela is part of the maturation of the liberation ideas in Africa.

At first, it was simply about black majority rule. Then, the South African liberation struggle matured to the point where it developed into a struggle for a non-racial democracy. Now, this was a very profound contribution to liberation in the 20th century, where the idea of liberation was no longer about the liberation of states, because all over Africa we had governments coming to power—in Zimbabwe, in Kenya—where the governments that replaced the colonial state did not change the conditions of the colonialism. But in South Africa, the struggle was for a non-racial democracy, and, as you rightly pointed out in the clip, where Obama said they brought a new principle of reconciliation, love, forgiveness. In other words, Mandela embraced the idea of ubuntu. And this is the contribution of Mandela to the world. Ubuntu is an old African philosophy, which means reconciliation, forgiveness, love and sharing. And under the Mandela political leadership in South Africa, there was an attempt to bring the ideas of ubuntu from its philosophical level to the level of practical politics. And this was done through the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Now, that was imperfect by any means, because we all know that South Africa is still a society—it’s a capitalist society that exploits the majority of the working peoples. But the idea of reconciliation in South Africa prevented a bloodbath, because it prevented the ongoing war and militarization of the South African economy that developed under apartheid.

And the last point I want to make about the contribution of the South African struggle is having the constitutional basis for recognizing the rights of all human beings. As you know, all over Africa, we have political leaders that exploit same-gender-loving relations. We have, all over Africa, homophobia being exploited by African leaders. And in the case of South Africa, the idea that women, youths, elderly people and same-gender-loving persons should have the same constitutional rights as everyone else was enshrined in the South African constitution. So, at the level of ideas and philosophy, Mandela and the South African struggle contributed much to the world. To African politics, the ideas of recognizing the rights of all, Mandela and the South African struggle contributed a lot to African politics. And to the ideas of African liberation—that is, liberation of the people beyond state power—Mandela contributed a lot.

And he said and did something else that was very significant. Mandela, after one term in office, after five years, stepped down as president of South Africa. This is very different from Robert Mugabe, who’s now been in power 33 years; from someone such as Museveni, who’s been in power for 27 years; and all over Africa, where presidents want to hold onto power and to maintain themselves as life presidents. So, Mandela has contributed so much to the politics, philosophy and the practice of political leadership in Africa, that we hope that Obama, in spite of his rhetoric, would learn something from Mandela. But the only way Obama can learn is if the peace and justice forces in this country teach him by intensifying the struggle for peace and decent life in the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Professor Campbell, I’d like to ask you about another topic that you’ve written extensively about, which is the NATO and U.S. intervention in Libya and its impact on politics and the well-being of the people of Africa. Could you talk about that intervention and how you analyze what’s happened since?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, please—thank you for mentioning this, and I would like your listeners to know that this book, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, is available from Monthly Review Press. In this book, we have extensively documented the destruction that was carried out by NATO in Libya.

There are a number of points that your listeners need to grasp. And for the audience of Democracy Now!, it’s very important that we develop a sophistication about what’s happening in North Africa, because the media and the military confused people by talking about Gaddafi. And what it did, it silenced sections of the peace movement so they didn’t have a robust understanding of the destruction that has gone on in Libya and the fact that today there are 1,700 militias running around Libya and the people have no peace.

What the book pointed out was that we have something called “Global NATO.” Global NATO is the representative of global capital. And global capital seek to impact the international political economy through the militarization of the global system. In other words, while NATO should have been disbanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO expanded to incorporate a number of new allies, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council. And they’re collaborating with that very same Gulf council with conservative monarchs in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to destabilize and to destroy Syria as a basis for fighting a war against the people of Iran. This book exposed Global NATO.

Secondly, this book exposed the fact that Libya was a stable society that had billions of dollars in reserves, and the Libyans were at the forefront of supporting African Union and for the creation of the African currency. This was a threat to the United States dollar. This was a threat to the fact that the dollar is the currency of world trade, because if the African peoples were able to create a common currency, as the African Union is planning to do, that would create greater thrust for economic transformation in Africa. And the West did not want that.

Thirdly, in Libya, the West supported the so-called jihadists. Here’s hypocrisy. The West is supposed to be fighting a global war on terror. And the very same persons who they themselves call terrorists, they armed and financed these persons to remove Gaddafi, and not only remove Gaddafi, but to execute Muammar Gaddafi, humiliate him, and to humiliate Africa. Now, this has created a big, big change in Africa, so that in the African Union, the African governments, such as South Africa and Angola, came together to remove Jean Ping, who was the head of the African Union.

Now, one of the points that your listeners should know about is the way in which Africans in Libya and black-skinned Libyans were called mercenaries in African countries. And this ethnic cleansing, this killing of people from Tawergha, is still going on in Libya. Here’s a city where 30,000 people have been driven from their communities by these militias supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. And the people of the United States do not have anything to say about this.

The only thing that the United States Congress is manipulating is the death of the United States ambassador in Benghazi. Now, that, in itself, is the last two chapters of my book, the fact that David Petraeus was running a station in Benghazi, working with the most extreme jihadists, to provide weapons for the jihadists in Syria, and so the United States was caught in contradiction between the militias that it was supporting, and in these contradictions, the United States ambassador lost his life. This is one of the things that is explained in great detail about the Petraeus wing of the foreign policy and the military establishment that wanted to militarize North Africa and the Sahel. So this book goes into great detail, and I would like your listeners to get copies of this book. And we will go and to explain why the peace movement must oppose the militarization of Africa and the United States Africa Command, although we have now seen that Obama, in going to Africa, has not mentioned once the United States Africa Command.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Campbell, I’d like to ask you about another thing you’ve written extensively about. In the United States and in the West, Africa is often portrayed as a region that needs European and Western aid. But you have written that, in fact, that “The World Bank and the IMF understood that the real foundation[s] of actual resources were to be found in Africa. To conceal the looting and [the] plunder, the West disguised the reality that Africa is a net creditor to the advanced capitalist countries.” Could you talk about that?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Yes, thank you. The pressures that have arisen in Africa against the looting and plundering of Africa has meant that even mainstream leaders have come out to oppose the plunder. Some of you know that Walter Rodney wrote a book 40 years ago called How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. And so, this exploitation and plunder of Africa has been going on. But the disinformation about Africa has been disguised by the idea that Africans are poor, needed aid and humanitarian support, and so the discussions have always been about aid to Africa. But the documentation has been that trillions of dollars have been plundered out of Africa by multinational corporations. And there are 15 different ways that they take money out of Africa. Now, in the process of this documentation, even mainstream leaders, such as Thabo Mbeki and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, have come out against plundering of African resources. And in the most recent progress report of Africa that was authored by Kofi Annan, they made statements about how corporations must be held accountable in Africa. Now, they had a sideshow in Ireland at the beginning of this month called the G8. And most of the points in this G8 document spoke about plundering, and they talked about why corporations must be held accountable.

But if Obama and the United States government cannot hold corporations accountable in the United States of America, they won’t be able to hold them accountable in Africa. So it is up to us to continue the work that has been done by the African workers, the African students, African women, African civic leaders, who were exposing this plunder of corporations. For example, this week Obama spoke about climate change in the United States of America. Well, in Africa, he was right there in Senegal, where the people of Senegal are talking about building of a great green wall to replenish Africa and to reverse climate change. Now, in Africa, they have moved to the point we are saying we have to system change, not climate change. They want to indict Shell Corporation. So, the whole discussion in Africa is moving in a different direction from the way in which the academic discussion about Africa being helpless, poor, needs humanitarian aid, has gone in the African studies departments in the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, George W. Bush and Laura Bush are in Africa at the same time as the Obamas. On July 2nd, first lady Michelle Obama will be joined by Laura Bush to attend the African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania. Can you talk about the significance of this?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, George Bush and the Bush family, they have attempted to develop a special relationship with Tanzania. Now I think your listeners need to have sense, some sense, of why Tanzania is so important and being courted. Tanzania was the headquarters of the Liberation Committee of Africa. Tanzania was led by Julius Nyerere, and they had a position of African socialism. And that position of socialism in Africa made Tanzania the most cohesive society in Africa, and Tanzania is one country that has developed institutions, a developed judiciary, a developed civil society and, most important, a developed intellectual cadre and an army that supported liberation.

George Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, they have invested a lot to change the Tanzanian military to be a supporter of the U.S. Africa Command. And George Bush spent six days in Tanzania, last time he went there. And since he left as president, he’s made at least five visits to Tanzania, so that the conservatives in the United States have targeted Tanzania. And they have been sending the front—the shock troops of the right wing in the United States, the extreme Christian fundamentalists, who have gone into the villages all around Tanzania. And so, the friendship that George Bush has developed with President Kikwete has been part of the maneuvering of the conservatives. And, unfortunately, the left in this society has not strengthened its alliance with the left in Tanzania so that we can isolate George Bush.

So, Laura Bush arranged this meeting of first ladies in Africa. Now, when you come together with first ladies in Africa, you’re not coming together with African women, because African women are at the forefront of keeping life and health and peace in Africa. And so, the African women’s movement will just have to intensify the work that it’s doing so that we bring to the forefront the fact that women in Africa are against all forms of exploitation.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Professor Campbell, on South Africa, the unions there, last year 34 striking miners were killed, and President Mandela, not to mention the current president, President Zuma’s views of globalization, and your critique of that?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, the conditions of the workers in South Africa have not changed since the end of apartheid. The conditions of housing for the majority of the people in South Africa have not changed. The conditions of education have not changed. In fact, the ruling elite in South Africa have internalized the ideas of the white minority. So there’s an alliance between the emerging black capitalists in South Africa and the whites in South Africa. And we saw the results of this in the continued struggles of the South African workers.

Now, the conditions of South African workers is a part of the conditions of global workers. As you mentioned earlier in the program about the 1,100 workers who died in that horrible accident in Bangladesh, all over Africa foreign corporations are going into Africa to try to establish sweatshop conditions. So the global rights of African workers, they’re coming together—Nigerian workers, where we have the strong Nigerian Labour Congress; the workers in South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions; the Kenyan workers; Tanzanian workers—African workers are coming together against the kind of conditions that are being called for by global capital. And they’re calling for the strengthening of the defense of the rights of workers for working conditions, health and safety of the place of work, and decent wages for workers. So, what is happening in the midst of this crisis is the intensification of the struggles of the African workers for better conditions.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us. Professor Horace Campbell teaches African American studies and political science at Syracuse University, has written extensively on African politics. His latest book, Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. His most recent <a href=”http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/26/obama-in-africa-2/>article is at CounterPunch, “The Imperial Tour: Militarism and Plunder.” We will link to it at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.

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